Thursday, March 29, 2012


Is the limited time item destined for fast food greatness, or is it a high-concept idea better left in the dorm rooms of Southern Cal?

Earlier this month, Taco Bell made the decision to start selling its line of Doritos Locos Tacos - at one point, a popular, regional-only item in California - as a nationwide menu offering. And if you’re enjoying one of them right now, I think you owe me more than just a bit of gratitude for the opportunity to chow down on one.

Now, I’m not saying that this article I wrote last Thanksgiving was directly responsible for Taco Bell’s decision to “nationalize” the item, but…yeah, it probably was. And if they ever decide to make those beefy crunch, Frito’s-lined burritos a full-time offering? Yeah, you might as well send me a tithe every time you bite it into one from hereon out.

To be honest, the news that Taco Bell had nationalized the item was sort of a shock, as I didn’t know it was a countrywide project until seeing advertisements plastered outside my neighborhood Bell a few weeks ago. Imagine writing “I wish they still made Pepsi Clear” on a message board and ambling into a Safeway the next day and seeing a huge ass display for the discontinued beverage right next to the cash register, and I think that about equals the amount of surprise that coursed through my veins and brain tissue upon noting the myriad Locos Tacos posters and banners taped all around the neighborhood eatery.

I suppose explicating the appeal of the Doritos Locos Tacos may be a hard sell for some. If you’re American, however - and especially if you’re a college-aged male in your early to mid-20s - the majesty of such a menu item is basically inherent. For a couple of decades now, really, really stoned/drunk/fat/stoned, drunk and fat college kids have been creating all sorts of bastard amalgamations of junk food, cramming them together in bizarre permutations like Dr. Frankenstein, pending Dr. Frankenstein dropped out of med school to watch “Dragon Ball Z” re-runs for four years on a general education scholarship.

The Doritos Locos Taco Legend began, I suppose, in the dorm rooms of Southern California, where munchies-craving trust fund babies got a dual hankering for both microwaved tacos AND super-salty corn chips shaped like nachos, and lo and behold…history was made. The logistics of how the first Doritos Taco came about however, is something that still leaves me a bit puzzled. Granted, I’ve seen some pretty huge nacho chips in my day, but one would have to uncover at least two gargantuan, once-in-a-life-time, freakishly over-sized chips for the idea of a “Doritos Taco” to even become a feasible consideration. There HAS to be some amazing story there, I am most certain. 

Alas, I guess the really, really big picture behind the nationalization of the Doritos Locos Tacos is that it means corporate America has officially hopped on the Gen Y bandwagon and started catering/pandering to us like some straight up food pimps or something. I guess you can say that Taco Bell is on the cutting edge when it comes to incorporating “user generated” foods on its real-life menu, which isn’t too surprising, since Taco Bell is just about every dope-head and career slacker’s favorite fast food haunt by far. I suppose one could say that it’s cultural co-option of the pettiest kind - essentially, finding a way to turn a profit through LEGAL fusion of already incredibly unhealthy junk food - in effect here, but you know what I say to that? WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA, YOU COMMIE PINKO? Well, that, or it’s a pretty sound strategy, from a business standpoint. Since families these days are too dadgum broke to take the kids out  to eat (and all of those highfalutin, holier than thou neo-yuppies - think: your older brother and sister - avoid fast food because they’re all about veganism and freeganism and all that other post-Occupy nonsense that doesn’t mean anything to anybody), why not turn the DIY, hyper-ironic, food-obsessed youth culture into your target audience? They don’t have children, they haven’t declared bankruptcy (yet) and they really don’t give two inklings of a damn whether or not the high-fat, high-sodium gunk is going to turn them into footless dialysis users in 20 years time. All in all, I’d say that makes the Doritos Locos Tacos - a mishmash of corporate synergy AND pandering to the lowest common denominator (with a bit of youth exploitation thrown into the mix) - arguably the single most democratic thing a fast food business has ever done. 

As for the Doritos Locos Tacos themselves, you may be asking? Well, we actually get two models to choose from: a standard offering, and a supreme version. I guess the primary difference between the two - outside the fact that the supreme iteration will run you about 20 cents more than the regular variation - is that the supreme variety comes loaded with more veggies and sour cream. To some, this may be worth the extra quarter or so that they’re asking for, but in all honesty, it really doesn’t change the flavor or texture of the taco all that much. It’s a definite must-try mutation for completionists, but for the layman or laywoman, I’d advise saving those spare coins for laundry service or something.

To prove once and for all that God himself is opposed to the prospect of Doritos Locos Tacos being released, as soon as I got my bag of newfangled foodstuff home, the freaking electricity went out. Thankfully, daylights saving time was around to give me a little bit of light to do some fast food photography, which not at all masks the fact that I spent a recent evening stuck in my bedroom, eating awesomely gross food in pitch blackness like some sort of B-horror movie subject.

If you are an environmentalist or Eco-conscious person, the Doritos Locos Tacos are no-doubt going to horrify you. In addition to being wrapped in the typical Taco Bell cocoon of waxy paper, these babies also come wedged in a tougher, internal paper casing, which reminds you that, yes, you are indeed eating a Doritos Locos Taco.

You know, sometimes you can just TELL you’re looking at something that’s going to be revered by future generations. The same way New Coke came to “define” the consumer excesses of the Reagan Years, I’m pretty sure a good 10 or so years down the line, we’re going to be watching some special on VH1 with C-list celebrities talking about how amazingly stupid/amazingly great this thing was. Everything about this thing just screams “2012” to me, from the copious use of the term “awesomeness” on the package to the appearance of that now-ubiquitous phone scanner decal on the back of the lining. 

One of the things that STILL shakes me a bit about the item is why it’s called a “Doritos LOCOS Taco.” I’m not really sure why you would need to call it anything other than a “Doritos Taco,” but then again, it does have something of a nice alliteration to it. That, and perhaps it’s the company’s way of issuing the single most subtle mea culpa in business history - I guess what they’re REALLY saying is, to want to try one of these things, you’d pretty much HAVE to be crazy.

Empirically, the items really look like your typical, run of the mill hard shell offerings, until you catch that orange-gleam radiating off the taco. True to the namesake, these things are also guaranteed to give you a good case of the dreaded “Doritos fingers” syndrome, meaning that unless you eat this thing with a fork, you’re going to have orange dust all over your hands, your clothing, and most likely everything within ten feet of you once you’re finished with the meal.

So, the ultimate - and really, the only - question worth asking at this point is whether or not these things are actually any good. Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of the items, primarily because I’m just not that big a fan of Doritos in general. As you can clearly see, you get A WHOLE LOT more stuff inside the shell with the supreme iteration, but don’t let your pupils fool you, because it tastes pretty much the same as the standard taco. While there is definitely a slight “Doritos” taste to the offering, it’s really a whole lot subtler than it probably should be, which is most likely a good thing - I suppose if they went ALL out and dusted the shit out of the shell with nacho powder, it would presumably be so overpowering and dry-mouth inducing that you’d have to dip your head into a bucket immediately afterward to avoid oral desiccation. 

To be honest, I do have some pretty weird culinary tastes. I mean, some really, really weird ones. That said, I think the Doritos Locos Tacos were a bit underwhelming, and something I really wouldn’t advise going out of your way to try…unless you’re like me, which means you hate money and owning a functioning colon.

But, of course…you’re going to try them. You have to, because alike me, you are hopelessly addicted to the tackiness of consumer culture, and since its relatively cheap, it’s a cost-effective means of quelling a night’s hunger pangs. That, and I really don’t think the national response for these things is going to be enough to warrant an encore, so if you want to give it a tryout, I’d surmise that now is probably your only opportunity to do so.

In other words? Yeah, we’re probably not looking at the next McRibwich - or hell, for that matter, the next Pumpkin Spice Latte - with this stuff right here.

In the mood for more fast food fury?

Check out my review of McDonald’s old school Halloween pails RIGHT HERE!


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